Tips for camping with your kids

Tips for camping safety and fun

If you're like a lot of families this year, you want to find some budget-minded ways that you can still enjoy a family vacation together, but without spending a lot of money. One of the best ways you can do that is to take the family camping. But if you haven't done much camping-or haven't yet tried it with the kids, you might be unsure of where to begin. Here are some tips to help make happy campers of the whole family.

1. Start with a good campground that's close to home with drive-in campsites. In the Bay Area, we're lucky to have a number of great campgrounds you can reach in under an hour from wherever you call home. This makes it easy to start with just an overnight trip, since you can leave Saturday morning after breakfast and still be home Sunday for dinner. Also, most Bay Area campgrounds won't get as cold at night as those at higher elevations, which greatly simplifies the logistics of camping overnight with babies and toddlers.

2. When picking your campsite, avoid these locations if you can:

Next to water - The view might be lovely, or the sound of a trickling stream, but with small kids it could be a safety hazard and you may end up constantly chasing your toddler or young kids out of the creek. It may also put you in the thick of mosquitoes come dusk.

Next to the restroom - In the case of pit toilets, the reason may be obvious. But the constant traffic to the john, flushing noises, conversations, and lights can be very disruptive to young sleepers who are already excited about sleeping in the tent.

3. When you'll be sharing a tent with a baby or small kids, test-drive the sleeping arrangements at home.

Whether you set up the tent in the backyard, or just roll out the sleeping bags in the living room, it's helpful to try a practice run of sleeping "in camp" at home. Let your kids practice sleeping in their sleeping bags-toddlers often wiggle their way out in the night, and if yours does, you'll know you need to dress him in extra warm clothing. Just the prospect of sleeping in a tent can be exciting enough for kids new to camping, and if they don't normally share a room with Mom and Dad at home, so you might want to work through that initial excitement at home rather than in the campground. Also, campers with babies will especially want to test out the baby's sleeping arrangements and attire to make sure they are comfortably warm without being overbundled.

4. Keep the food and cooking simple on your first camping trips.

You don't need to cook up 3-course meals for your family while camping, and you don't even need a camp stove to get started. For a short camping trip, bring bagels or cereal, sandwich fixings, cold veggies, fruit, and a few of your favorite snacks. And by all means, don't forget to bring the marshmellows!

Buy the book on Amazon: Travels with Baby

About Shelly Rivoli:
Shelly Rivoli has traveled with a baby in tow across the U.S., over both Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and around the Mediterranean Sea. Together, her family has made its way by airplane, elephant, subway, train, cruise ship, taxi, and long tail boat. After changing diapers in Thailand, Tunisia, Manhattan, Yosemite, Paris, Chichen Itza, Hawaii, and Pompeii, she has grown quite familiar with the technical details of traveling--and sightseeing--with babies, toddlers, and young children.

Shelly's travel guidebook, Travels with Baby: The Ultimate Guide for Planning Trips with Babies, Toddlers, and Preschool-Age Children, received a 2008 NAPPA Gold Award in Parenting Resources from the National Parenting Publications Awards and was a finalist for two ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Awards. Her family travel tips and advice have appeared in national parenting magazines, including Pregnancy, Parents, Parenting, and Nick Jr. Magazine, and on popular parenting websites and blogs including, Urban Baby Daily, and aParentlySpeaking.

Shelly travels as often and as far as she can with her husband and two young daughters. The rest of the time, she hangs her hats (as mother and writer) in the San Francisco Bay Area. She can be found online at

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